Ann Arbor school board members, 'shocked' by football fight, encourage lessons on sportsmanship
Daniel Brenner I AnnArbor.com
- Six second half personal fouls escalated tension before Pioneer-Huron brawl
- Ann Arbor Public Schools officials meeting Monday to determine next steps in aftermath of football brawl
- Mother of Huron player injured in high school football brawl: 'It's just terrible'
- One victim sent to hospital, no arrests made after on-field brawl at Huron, Pioneer football game
Ann Arbor school board members, “shocked” by the brawl that broke out at Friday’s Pioneer versus Huron football game, expressed a hope that the greater school community will use the altercation as a way to remember what participating in sports is all about.
School officials met Monday — and Sunday, according to sources — to take action on the brawl. Outcomes from the meeting were not released as of 3:30 p.m. Monday.
“My understanding is that the investigation is ongoing and that the district is taking the appropriate and measured approach to figuring out exactly what happened, so in the aftermath of this unfortunate incident they are not going to compound anything,” said Board President Deb Mexicotte.
She said the school board typically receives information about investigation findings and outcomes all at once, simultaneous with or just prior to the district releasing information to the public.
“From what I’ve heard from parents, most want us to get it right, too. We do not condone this kind of behavior under any circumstance. But these parents — and all of us — care about their athletic program and want to see this end with all the facts,” Mexicotte said.
Mexicotte expressed her sympathy to the student who was injured in Friday’s “heat-of-the-moment” altercation. She added she also was pleased by the number of staff, students and community members who stepped up to defuse the situation and stepped up to be leaders following the incident.
When news of the fight first reached Trustee Simone Lightfoot, who was travelling out of town, she was “disturbed.”
“I first was worried about the kids, were they hurt, how many were hurt,” Lightfoot said. “I didn’t even think about how some of the grown folks may have been involved until later. I don’t know how I’ll feel about that until I have more information. I’m looking forward to the investigation.”
As a board member, Lightfoot knows the value of having adequate information before jumping to conclusions, so she’ll be waiting in anticipation to hear what school officials determine was behind the fight, she said.
Board Secretary Andy Thomas added “shocked,” “saddened” and “disappointed” to the list of adjectives board members used to describe their feelings when they learned of the fight.
Thomas said he is glad the district is waiting to communicate with the public until they have the facts of what happened straight.
Trustee Susan Baskett seconded Thomas’ disappointment.
“Here all the effort the district puts into teaching kids about appropriate behavior and conduct, sportsmanship and personal responsibility and the like, and here it was the adults that were out of control — how disappointing,” she said.
Trustee Glenn Nelson also is pleased with how the district has been handling the situation thus far. He said he and his fellow board members received an email from District Spokeswoman Liz Margolis late Friday night informing them that an incident had occurred — “so we wouldn’t be surprised when we read it in the papers.”
What allegedly transpired, Nelson didn’t learn until after seeing accounts in the local media, he said. Not commenting on Friday’s fight specifically, he said coaches need to set good examples for their student athletes.
“I think coaches, as a general rule, should model the behavior of working hard and intensely, trying to do one’s best, but combining it with respect for the other players on the field,” he said.
Nelson said he is glad to see the district investigating this incident as a very serious and high-priority matter.
“They’ve cleared their calendars of other events, which shows the importance their placing on this. They’re not excusing it as an incident of boys will be boys,” he said.
Vice President Christine Stead said she hopes while people are talking about what went wrong Friday night that they also are reminding one another that participating in athletics is a privilege and plays an important role in children's development of necessary life skills.
She said athletics can be a “fast track learning curve” for many of life’s situations that call for teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship.
“Leadership is seen in many ways, but is expected of coaches,” Stead said in a post on her education blog in the hours following the incident. “Coaches spend the most time with the team and understand the value of the lessons, mentioned above, that are available through athletics. Coaches set the tone and show children the way. They are people, too. We all keep learning, if we are engaged in life at all.
“That being said, we have higher expectations for those in a leadership role, and our coaches bear that accountability.”
When incidents like Friday night occur, Stead said everyone — parents, coaches and students — need to be reminded of these expectations.